Gorham brothers’ store offers local musicians friendly vibes, eclectic gear

The Syracuse music shop, owned by three siblings, prepares to expand to a new space in October.

Beginning in 2003, local metal band Engineer traversed the country playing in bars, concert halls and skate parks. Bobby, Brad and Ryan Gorham, who comprised the band's core, visited hundreds of music gear shops, taking note of the ones that sold rare equipment and, as Bobby said, the ones that sucked.

When Engineer quit making music in 2011, the Gorham brothers found a spot on Seeley Road to start a music store of their own — one that didn't suck. Gorham Brothers Music opened in December 2011 and has since become a haven for Syracuse musicians searching for vintage amplifiers, off-brand guitars, boutique effects pedals and other gear.

The brothers are the business' sole owners, clerks, repairmen and marketers and they still find time to manage its social media accounts. On Oct. 1, the store will move two spots down to a larger space. More room may mean branching out to more amp repair and service calls, 31-year-old Brad said.

Even with the possibility of added work, they aim to keep it this way.

While their shop faces competition from the nearby Guitar Center, 33-year-old Bobby said, their customers appreciate the individualized experience. "We deal with people on a more personal basis instead of a corporate one," Bobby said. "We can tell you what everything in the store is because it’s our store."

Syracuse musician Grant Johnson, who uses Gorham-bought pedals in his recordings, said the brothers give the store a relaxing vibe.

"People just walk in, and they say, 'Feel free to play whatever,' and I think that's absolutely the attitude you need to have," Johnson said. "It's just a very comfortable atmosphere."

Some of the shop's customers, made up mostly of male hobby players between ages 30 and 50, like to be left unbothered to discover new sounds for themselves. And the brothers respect that. The lack of sales pressure is intentional, 29-year-old Ryan said.

"If I walked into a music store, how would I want it to be?" Ryan said. "That's what we try to make it — comfortable, laid-back. Touch whatever you want. Take guitars down. Play pedals."

The store includes nearly 20 used guitars ranging from $100 to over $1,000, about 20 types of effects pedals and an entire fleet of amplifiers and speaker cabinets, some built by Ryan and sold under the company name Old Soul. Almost all of the instruments come in used; pedals are ordered from independent manufacturers.

When the shop opened in 2011, though, the brothers only had their personal collection to offer.

In those early days, Brad said, local in-store traffic kept the lights on and the Nick Cave songs playing through the overhead speakers. Now, online sales through eBay Inc. and Reverb make up at least half of the total business.

"We couldn't exist without the online stuff," Brad said. "We like the old-school, hands-on approach, but the web helps us grow and flip our inventory."

Speaking about "us" and "we" comes naturally for the three brothers, who grew up together in the rural town of Parish, about 30 miles north of the city.

"We're such a collective mind. We've all done the same thing throughout our entire lives, we all have real similar mindsets and our goals and outlooks are probably all the same," Bobby said.

That cohesive spirit has yielded a new musical project called Blood Sun Circle, with the brothers writing songs and jamming in the store after hours. A few times a year, they'll even flip the shop into a 60-person concert venue.

For now, Brad said they're focusing on expanding.

"We're trying for slow growth, maybe increasing our inventory, but over time," he said. "We've always tried to do things organically."

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